[Due to the recent controversy surrounding this interview, it will be left at the top of the page until things blow over.]
UPDATE: An observant reader (props C L Cook) did some digging into the machete side story and found out that it may not be on the up and up. I did not know about the controversy surrounding it. However, I do not have time to do a full background check right now, so be warned
So before I begin, this article will not be about my beliefs on Israel, that is a major post for another day. One thing I will say about my views however, is that I hate using left and right for the Israel debate. I know a lot of people who are pro Israel who are as liberal with the best of them, and then you got guys on the right like Pat Buchanan that just don’t like Jews. Regardless of your thoughts on the issue, it is important to put Israel policy outside of the normal partisan boundaries because it is very easy for anti Israel to turn into anti Jew. If that infects the left/right debate in the US, it will be, as my Dad says, not good for the Jews. I also find that it is important for there to be a difference between anti Israel and pro Palestinian. For example, someone could be in support of Israel’s right to defend itself, but still feel that the Palestinians have been given a raw deal and deserve a state. They are not mutually exclusive, nor mutually inclusive.
What this post is about is the problem with the mainstream debate. That problem is that too many people are talking about what they don’t know about or understand. Here are two very recent examples from both the pro and anti Israel sides
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First, today Bill Kristol wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard saying how he had internal unnamed sources saying that Obama was planning on voting in favor of an international investigation of the Turkish Flotilla Fiasco at the UN. Ben Smith quickly refuted this on Politico, confirming with his white house sources that this was not true. However, wherever you stand on this you will be angry with the white house. People against an international investigation will believe that the Obama administration was planning on doing it under the radar, but stopped once it came out, while people for the investigation will think that the administration kowtowed to the pro Israel hardliners. The result of this is that no matter what side you are on, you feel that the Israel/anti-Israel side strong arming/conspiring against you. This is just devolves the debate into more distrust and anger, something that really wont help Israel or Palestinians.
A second example of what is wrong with the debate is an example from the left. Last weekend I interviewed NDP MP (a NDP=Leftist Party, MP=Canadian Member of Parliament) Libby Davies at an anti Israel rally that I was filming. Libby Davies is one of the more prominent critics of Israel in Canada, so I thought I would hear an eloquent argument on why Israel is a negative force in the world. However, what I got instead was evasiveness and a misunderstanding of basic facts of history
I first asked he when she believes that the occupation started in 1948 or 1967. I was hoping to gauge what part of the anti-Israel spectrum she was on. When she answered 1948, and then started talking about the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, I was stunned. It seemed to me that she believed that those territories fell under occupation after the war for independence, not the 67 war. As the interview went on, it became more clear that she did not actually know much about the conflict. How is it that a leader on a national stage can take such a stand against another country without understanding what she is taking a stand on? While I may have disagreed with her ideas, I would have had little problem with her if she actually knew about the cause that she was trying to rally people to. But she had no clue what she was talking about other then parroting a few lines at me getting flustered when I tried to push beyond them. This is of a particular concern, because as the second highest ranking member of the NDP, she will most likely receive a cabinet post if the NDP/Liberal merger goes ahead, and if she is ignorant in a cause she has been championing would it really be a smart idea to give her a ministry?
My big worry is that the Israel debate will take on the tenor of the health care debate. Going to university in Canada, I have seen first hand how angry anti-Israel student events can get and they are comparable to those that the far right held during the town halls last summer. I have seen Jewish students pushed around, and I earlier this year, two pro Israel students in Ottawa were attacked with a machete. When pundits fuel the fires with false claims, and politicians try to lead without understanding what they are actually leading, only bad things can happen, and I can say this, it won’t be good for the Jews or Palestinians